Original article by @jodgi
The developers at Wargaming have a habit of being a bit short with the information and stats on most things concerning World of Tanks. We’re given a short description and requests for extensive explanations are met with the terse and trollish response: “This is not a game for accountants.” (paraphrased). To know the ins and outs of the game mechanics, players are often forced to do in-game tests or reverse engineer various data- and configuration files. The best example of this is the camo values of tanks. No information about these values is offered by the developers so players of the Russian forum are performing ongoing testing to discern the camo coefficients of the tanks in the game.
This piece is about understanding exactly how the perk “Designated Target” works. Prior to writing this I put the question to the users of the wotlabs.net forum. The answers I got were well thought through and mostly based on the official description of the perk, but varied a bit in content and effect. Testing had to be done to get closer to the elusive truth about the perk’s inner workings. It’s simple, really, and a small addition to the perk’s description would have made this wall of text with purdy pictures and videos pointless, but we’ll get to that.
This is the description you’ll find in the game client and it doesn't give us much to go on. Notice you only have to target an enemy vehicle and it works in direct and indirect fire modes. Does indirect mean arcade- or artillery mode?
The wiki description answers my question about artillery mode and further defines what targeting means. It goes on to state that the duration a target stays lit is at least five seconds, but seems to be random up to 10 seconds. If this assumption is true, coupled with visibility check intervals of up to two seconds at maximum range, it could be hard to do any meaningful testing at all.
SWSnake, Xinias, Ar1z, Arrnor, SWG112 and myself did the testing in a Malinovka training room using medium tanks (Thanks to Oneechan and Orrie for that out of range idea.). My M48 Patton was the only tank with a designated target trained gunner, it is also skilled and equipped to sport a viewrange of 486m but that is capped to the standard 445 maximum detection range.
We used stopwatches during the testing but the times displayed in the videos and printed here were measured in the video editing software.
First off a simple confirmation that Designated Target works and to note the baseline times. We also did many repetitions to get an impression of any random factors that might exist. The target tank is within my max spotting range and fires to drop camo which allows me to light him up.
I believe firing the gun makes the target visible maybe three or four seconds, then follows the spotting countdown of about six seconds followed by the designated target countdown of an additional two seconds.
It is abundantly clear that under these circumstances there are no random factors to correct for. Maybe the wiki information about random spotting duration is outdated? Maybe random durations can be observed in normal public battles? It is also possible firing the gun forces a visibility check, since even the two seconds interval seems to be taken out of the equation. We do not need to worry too much about randomness.
Designated Target, passive at maximum range
Does the perk work if you target the tank but it is another tank without the perk that does the actual spotting?
The target tank is within my maximum spotting range and the spotter tank peeks out at the target, spots it and pulls back behind solid cover.
Here we have to consider a small random factor caused by the movement of the spotting tank and half a second seems to fit the bill. Notice that the duration is longer when I’m aiming away. It seems unlikely Designated Target works in this setup, but we have to try again.
Designated target, passive at medium range
The spotter moves carefully forward until the target is spotted then moves back and out of spotting range.
In this example we have to correct for the random factor caused by the movement of the spotter tank and allow for the human reaction time of the driver. I find it hard to suggest the difference is caused by a two seconds perk timer.
Line of sight blocked, passive
It seems passive mode is a goner, but we trundle on, regardless.
The difference is in line with what we’ve seen already and is, like before, most likely caused by tank movement and reaction time.
Line of sight blocked by objects, active spotting
The setup is simple, the target peeks out, shoots and pulls back behind solid cover, a rock in this case.
Designated Target works with solid objects between the spotter and the target.
Line of sight broken by terrain, active spotting.
What if the target pulls back and hides behind terrain?
There is a little bit of driving involved in this test that makes the timing a bit inaccurate. Still, it seems Designated Target kicks in with two extra seconds even if the target hides behind terrain after being spotted.
The moment of “designation”.
When is the perk timer added? The two last tests indicate that it you have crosshairs on target around the time you spot the tank, two seconds are added to the duration the target will remain lit. Can you aim at a target towards the end of the duration and still add the perk timer?
Designated target does not work if you spot a tank but don’t aim at it until it’s about to disappear. The perk timer is added at the start and that explains why the perk works in spite of the target hiding behind objects and terrain or even moves out of maximum detection range, as we will check next.
We didn’t test what happens when there are multiple targets within the 10 degree cone of you aiming point. Neither did we test to find out exactly how quickly you need to aim at a spotted target to allow the perk to kick in.
Outside viewrange, active spotting.
What if the target you spot immediately moves out of your viewrange?
Doesn’t matter, Designated target works even if the target moves out of your viewrange, even the maximum detection range of 445 m.
Designated Target works with a tank that does it’s own spotting and is aimed at the spotted target quickly.
Gunners in medium and light tanks are obvious candidates to be trained to Designated Target. To make frequent use of the perk with a heavy tank or tank destroyer will require a playstyle not perfectly suited for those tank classes, but it’s still viable. Though, I can imagine it to be a good fit for something like the E25.